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12.1.5 Practice Pointers

  • • Help your client (and yourself) by organizing the client documents by time and date. Scanning the documents and then numbering them in chronological order can create order from chaos, and the client or support staff may be able to assist you with creating a simple document index to organize the file.
  • • From the first conversation, whether at intake or the first client appointment, ask the client to start writing down their narrative. The narrative should include important dates and names, phone numbers, and details.
  • • Warn clients about price gouging.
  • • Reach out to advocates who have handled these issues before. Although you will need to learn the area, there is no need to start from scratch when there is a growing body of legal advocate experts throughout the country dealing with all types of disasters. They will let you know the pitfalls to look out for and recommendations to streamline efficiency in your cases. Often, these advocates have training materials available already or can do trainings for your office.
  • • Give yourself mental health time. Secondary trauma is real; even if you were not personally affected by the disaster, dealing with disaster cases and helping traumatized survivors can be uniquely challenging. If you were also affected by the disaster, then mental health time is absolutely necessary.
  • • Offer mental health helplines to clients so that they can rely on mental health professionals for support instead of you.

To find out if your state has a FEMA Crisis Counseling Program, call the FEMA Helpline 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). For the hearing impaired, please call 1-800-462-7585. Also call your state 2-1-1 for local mental health resources.